The perfect team — Our commitment to building better individuals and better students is uncompromising.
Heather Bowser, B.A.
I was born in the small town of Plymouth, Wisconsin. As a child, I remember how much I loved walking to the library to get new books every week. I also loved music and took piano lessons for eight years, while also singing in choirs. After graduating high school, I attended Lakeland College, also in Wisconsin, where I worked at the campus and town libraries. For my first student teaching assignment, I taught all subjects in a 5th grade classroom; while at my second placement, I taught English and Social Studies to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. I learned a tremendous amount in those six months, and in 2002, I graduated with an Elementary/Middle School Education degree and a minor in History.
That same year, I married my husband, Tim, and started working as a substitute teacher for the school district. Our son, Triton, was born in 2004, and we relocated to Florida three months later. After staying home for a year with Triton, I began teaching at a private school here in Winter Park. There, I taught fifth grade for ten years. In my free time, I love to cook and read. And, I also enjoy watching sports -- especially football! It has been so exciting watching each child grow in the fun and creative environment that Walden Community School allows.
Heather Brunson, B.A.
I was born and raised right here in Central Florida and have a large family in the area. I have four children, whom I immensely enjoy watching grow and learn, Tre (7), Lucy (5), and my twins, Carter and Mason (1). In my free time, I love to get outdoors with my kids and husband, cook and eat yummy food, and spend time with my own community of friends and extended family.
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher, and I truly feel passionate about this career. I attended college in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina at Appalachian State University and graduated in December 2005 with my K-6 Elementary Education degree and a minor in English. After substitute teaching there for a bit, I moved back home and started working for Orange County Public Schools in 2007. As I continued working for the county, it became harder for me to hold true to my personal teaching philosophies as I saw the negative effects that county policy and academic changes were having on my students. I decided to open myself up to other options and was fatefully introduced to Walden Community School. I immediately fell in love and cherish being able to continue teaching with the freedom to facilitate children’s natural desire to learn -- and to nurture the whole child. It has been a dream come true.
Bonnie Burke, B.A., M.Ed
I am the product of two New Englanders, my mother from Boston and father from Maine, though my sister and I were born and raised in St. Petersburg, FL. My father taught secondary math and coached at St. Petersburg High School for 32 years and never missed a day. My mother trained revenue agents for the State, but couldn’t become one because she was female. I continue to learn from them every day of my life.
I graduated from Stetson University with a B.A. in both Psychology and Math, received my Masters from UCF in Exceptional Student Education and Math, and am A.B.D. (All But Dissertation) at the University of Florida in Exceptional Student Education and Neuropsychology. I have taught for over thirty years, working in the private and public sectors in Orlando/Winter Park and New Orleans. I am certified in a number of areas Math, Specific Learning Disabilities, and Varying Exceptionalities, among them.
I have experience teaching children with every conceivable “label” --but have often noted that traditional assessments, subsequent stereotypes, and resultant lowered expectations for students can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. What if the student's only “learning problem” is that he or she doesn't fit into the local school system’s instructive model? Enter Walden Community School - where students' individual learning channels are explored, celebrated, and integrated into an educational paradigm built to nurture their success. I am so happy to be excited about education again - and I am so very happy to teach - and learn - at Walden Community School.
Ashley Carson, B.A., M.A., L.M.H.C.
I was born and raised in Winter Park and received my B.A. in Psychology from Wake Forest University in North Carolina. After graduation, I moved to NYC, where I lived (and played!) for three years before backpacking solo through Europe -- and through 15 countries -- for six months, which was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I accidentally ended up back in Winter Park, where I decided to continue with psychology, receiving my Masters in Mental Health Counseling from Rollins College in 2004 and becoming a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (L.M.H.C.) several years later. I practiced as a therapist at several local agencies before my daughter was born, and I enjoy running, writing, and keeping up with my two amazing children.
I remember my first experience touring Walden: the teacher was standing on a chair, creating a “brain map” diagram with students, all of whom were relaxed and attentive on the floor, excitedly answering questions and coming up with their own. I was sold, knowing that this was the kind of school that would foster my children’s inquisitive natures and love of learning. I am thankful to contribute to Walden as the Coordinator and be a part of this wonderful community of teachers, students, and families.
Allisyn Dernier, B.A.
I was born and raised near Boston, Massachusetts and stayed there until I moved to Florida in November 2018. I cannot remember a time that I did not want to be a teacher, although my parents tell me being a clown and a bus driver were on my job list also. Books were my go-to pastime when I was younger, and they still are, along with baking and playing with my dog. I was also a cheerleader and part of the Drama Society in my middle and high school years.
I attended Emmanuel College in Boston to get my Elementary Education and Liberal Studies degree. After graduation, I began working in the elementary school in my little town in the third fourth, and fifth grade, and at one of the afterschool/summer programs there, too.
Quickly after moving to Florida, I visited Walden Community School and decided within minutes of arriving that it is where I wanted to teach. I am so lucky to have been given the opportunity to be part of the Walden Family, and I look forward to seeing how the students grow -- and how I grow as a teacher.
I was born and raised in South Florida, but moved to Orlando two years ago for college. Currently, I’m a Junior at the University of Central Florida studying Early Childhood Development and Education. Throughout high school, I was involved in various visual arts classes and programs, where I was able to find my passion for art and creativity. But this passion began way before high school: ever since I can remember I was always doodling or drawing in some way. Art has always been a place that I can be completely myself, and I want to share my love for art with students and show them how creativity can be found almost everywhere. I believe that an educational environment works together to create a different form of art, where every student has their own voice and vision.
Last semester I started working at Walden Community School as an Intern teaching art classes. At first, I was terrified, but after a few classes, I began to find my confidence inside the classroom, becoming a teacher that promotes freedom of expression for all students. I'm looking forward to learning and growing knowing that the students at Walden are constantly teaching me something new and pushing me to become the best teacher I can be.
Lisa Wray, B.S., M.A.
I was born and raised in South Florida. My family and I relocated to Central Florida in 2017 after our son was born to be closer to family. We traded the beach for the springs and that is where we spend most of our free time. I love kayaking, swimming with the manatees, and camping.
I attended Nova Southeastern University. Here I realized that I had a passion for math, and I changed my major, earning a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Mathematics Education and a Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning with a focus in Educational Technology. I spent most of my career at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale. Upon moving to Orlando, I really wanted to find a place that I could call home and have the freedom to do what I truly love. I believe Walden is that place.